[OR liff] Underground Salem? I Hope There’ll Be Tours.


Maybe the recently-announced imminent arrival of a Trader Joe’s to Oregon’s third (or maybe second) city and state capital caused a rent in the fabric of space and time, because, all of a sudden, interesting things are happening in little ol’ Snailem.

That’s gotta give ’em all vertigo down there. After all, anything more interesting than a Saturday kid’s cartoon show must have been outlawed some time in the 60s. Being exciting in Salem was criminalized with a penalty of being forced to live there for the rest of your life.

Salem is not only Oregon’s center of government, it’s also Oregon’s capital of banal. I know. I was born in Silverton and spent my teen growing-up years in Salem. It’s imbued me with something of a acceptance of the mediocre and a stunted ambition. I’m not the only one who thinks this, as Brian Hines’ ongoing and dead-center commentary about Salem Suckitude reveals (I admire Brian because he has the courage to stick with that beige burg whereas I did not, and left as soon as I could). I may have a mediocre life here in PDX but let me tell you, it’s about ten times as interesting as a grand life in Salem could be, even now.

A story at KGW though suggests that Salem might have found something worth attending … underground tunnels that once stretched from the downtown area to the State Pen? Dug by Chinese who were subsequently hounded out of town for being too exciting for the Salem mind?


In the meantime, Ritter and Maitland continue to trek into underground spaces with flashlights in hand, peering through whatever slight crack a door or wall may have, in the hope of finding more pieces of Salem’s underground history.

They’ve made their way through spider webs and secret catacombs, finding an antique bank vault, an intact gold drop, a 1920s stairwell that goes to nowhere, a 1930s grocery drop with painted grocery aisles and lockers, a 1980s disco, a 1920s mural in what was once an underground cafe and a number of odd architectural finds.

The whole nine yards is at http://www.kgw.com/news/neighborhood-news/salem/Historians-explore-tunnels-beneath-Salem-105349828.html.

You go, Salem! Dare to be interesting!

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One Response to “[OR liff] Underground Salem? I Hope There’ll Be Tours.”

  1. I would like to hang around the ole' nordstrom mall sometime in downtown Salem – but these tunnels sound pretty cool!

    Always enjoy learning about it – hope you can clue me in where Trader José arrives too.

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